most people imagine out of towners who walk with their chins high in the sky looking around like they’ve never seen buildings before.
5 Ways to Live Like a Local When You Travel
In recent years, we’ve attached a great deal of stigma to the world “tourist.” When we talk about tourists, most people imagine out of towners who walk with their chins high in the sky looking around like they’ve never seen buildings before, bumping into people and wreaking havoc on traffic as we all try to get to work.
In order to not be that person and to gain a deeper understanding of a location, we strive to get immersed and adopt as many local habits as we can during our visits. I’ll share with you my top 5 ways to live like a local when you travel.
1. Forget the guide book
Sure, there are must-see spots in every city (think the Sagrada Familia, London Eye), but you shouldn’t allocate nearly as much time to those as you think.
The way I plan my visits, regardless of whether I’m in town for a weekend or for two months, is split into 50% sightseeing and 50% getting lost in the streets without direction.
This is a good balance of seeing some renowned sights which are famous for a good reason (the pyramids), but also gives you the freedom of going down whatever street looks interesting and stumbling upon hidden gems that will be only for you to know.
Plus, the latter gives you major explorer brag when you tell your friends about your trip. I guarantee, you’ll remember that tiny village in Greece you stumbled on forever, while Mykonos will be just another nice pin on your map.
2. Cook your own food with local ingredients
Although it’s super easy to eat at restaurants during your whole trip, cooking your own food gives you much more ownership of the location.
I try to book hotels or AirBnb with a kitchen whenever possible. Now, you definitely should try local food. That’s a part of the trip’s beauty. Create a nice balance by picking up local ingredients from small shops or open-air markets and preparing them in your kitchen.
If you can’t get a kitchen, go for street food. It’s cheap and authentic. Even world famous chefs like Anthony Bourdain swear by it. This will give you a genuine idea of foreign flavors and an insight into their cooking style.
3. Talk to everyone
Doesn’t matter if you’re shy or outgoing, because when you travel to a new location, you can be whoever you want to be.
Gather some courage and strike a conversation with someone at a cafe or at the park. If that’s too socially intimidating for you, you can always talk to cab drivers and store clerks. After all, they are paid for their time, so they’d be willing to talk.
I always talk to my cab drivers and 90% of the time, the conversation brings lots of insight and context to the city I’m at. These are things the guide book won’t tell you.
4. Go into small neighborhood bars
Go local as opposed to eating at chain restaurants. You’ll never catch me eat at McDonald’s abroad, because I’d go into a neighborhood hole in the wall bar instead and listen to the neighbors gossip about each other, their children and debate politics.
This is the best way to find out what people are truly passionate about. If you don’t speak the language, go nonverbal and watch their gestures. You’ll be surprised to see how different Spaniards act from Russians as an example. See what you find out.
5. Offer to volunteer
If you’d really like to go full out on cultural immersion, instead of staying at a hotel and creating your own itinerary, offer to volunteer at a hostel/ hotel. In exchange for a few hours of work per day, you’ll get free accommodation and learn how things are done abroad.